Environmental and Occupational Health


MPH@GW’s environmental and occupational health elective courses are designed for students committed to protecting public health by making workplaces and communities safe, enabling individuals to thrive in their environment.

With climate change, industrialization, insufficient water resources and expanding populations affecting communities around the world, public health professionals are needed to address and mitigate these environmental issues. The demand for professionals specializing in environmental health is expected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 20261, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Professionals in environmental and occupational health can pursue careers that involve risk science, environmental sustainability, infectious disease, occupational health and community dimensions.

Are you ready to play an integral role in improving environmental and occupational conditions worldwide? Learn more about the fields of interest, required courses and career paths for those passionate about improving environmental and occupational health.

Fields of Interest

Environmental and occupational health professionals may be interested in the following fields:

  • Environmental Sustainability: Promoting the analysis needed to assure healthy water, food, air, consumer products and home environments, as well as understanding the effects of environmental contamination and climate disruption on health worldwide.
  • Infectious Diseases: Reducing the spread of disease and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by improving food and sanitation systems.
  • Occupational Health: Focusing on the health and safety of workers across the country and around the world, with an emphasis on vulnerable workers and the auto, construction and food production industries.
  • Risk Science and Policy: Promoting better public health choices by improving methods for translating scientific discoveries and using science in policy decisions.
  • Social and Community Dimensions: Studying the relationships between communities and environments in order to discover social factors that contribute to better quality of life and overall health.

Milken Institute School of Public Health graduates have pursued careers at various organizations including: 

  • Consulting and Research Organizations
    • Booz Allen Hamilton
    • Environ
    • Oracle
    • Water Environment Research Foundation
  • Federal Regulatory Agencies
    • Environmental Protection Agency
    • Food and Drug Administration
    • Mine Safety and Health Administration
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Health care, pharmaceuticals and private sector organizations
    • AstraZeneca
    • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
    • Kimberly-Clark
    • Merck
  • Intergovernmental, nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations
    • American Public Health Association
    • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
    • Rural Coalition
    • World Bank
  • Labor Unions
    • American Federation of Government Employees
    • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
    • American Nurses Association

In addition to pursuing jobs in environmental and occupational health, public health professionals may choose to advance their education even further by taking additional graduate coursework, earning a medical degree or enrolling in law school.


With MPH@GW, you will complete 9 to 11 elective credits hours. Interested in environmental and occupational health? Consider choosing the following elective courses to match your interests.

Global Environmental and Occupational Health


This course examines critical global environmental and occupational health topics — emphasizing the factors that contribute significantly to the global burden of disease. The primary focus of the course is on low- and middle-income countries. The course is participatory and incorporates principles from behavioral sciences, development economics, risk assessment and epidemiology. The course tries to underscore potential solutions to environmental health problems, highlighting metrics used to measure impacts, as well as areas for future research.

Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programs


This course is designed for students with interests in both disaster and development settings of developing countries where contaminated water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene (WASH) are the cause of serious health problems. In this course, important concepts in WASH are covered so that students can understand what is needed to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate a WASH program. It emphasizes the need to develop effective, appropriate, accessible and affordable WASH interventions to reduce the global burden of disease.

Social Change and Climate Change


This course introduces students to the social dimensions of climate change. The course will offer students an opportunity to become well versed in climate drivers and mitigation; impacts, vulnerability and adaptation; and communication and social change. We will explore how psychological, social structural, normative, institutional and behavioral factors function in all these domains, seeing how they influence the causes of, consequences of and solutions for climate change. Synchronous sessions will be spent engaging in planned group exercises and group presentations. Additionally, we will dig deeply into the readings, so students should come to class well prepared to explore their understanding of each assigned reading.

Researching Climate Change and Public Health


The world now faces climate change as an incontrovertible fact, posing serious public health challenges for the 21st century. From increased wildfires to urban infrastructure threats, from emerging infectious diseases to increased heat-related illnesses and deaths, this course draws on the wealth of evidence compiled by the National Climate Assessment (NCA) to examine the myriad ways that climate change is affecting human health. NCA themes are used to guide each week’s topics including, widespread impacts, the ecological context, oceans of change, infrastructure, water resources, energy, land use, heat and air quality. Epidemiology, exposure assessment, risk assessment and environmental engineering serve as the disciplinary bases from which health evidence is examined. By reading and discussing research studies, students will emerge from the course more knowledgeable about current climate change and human health evidence and more proficient in interpreting study findings.

Introduction to Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology


This course explains epidemiologic research designs and applies epidemiologic methods to the study of environmental and occupational health problems. Environmental and occupational exposure assessment methods are covered, along with specific design aspects of cross-sectional, case-control, cohort and case crossover studies. Course material includes sources and evaluation of biases and confounding, and survey and questionnaire design. Written and oral communication skills are emphasized throughout this discussion-based course.

Take the Next Step

If you are ready to advance your career in public health with an online MPH from GW, request more information today.

1 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm (2017) (Accessed March 18, 2018) Return to footnote reference